Classic thrash metal band Anthrax has hit the road for the Earth is on Hell tour and brought a few old friends with them. I caught the tour in Philadelphia and for a bunch of classic bands in their 40s and 50s, all three bands sounded as if I had just entered a time warp and traveled back to 1988.
Anthrax, Testament, and Death Angel brought the Earth is on Hell tour to Philadelphia, PA on November 10, 2011 and presented one of the most memorable metal shows I have ever seen. The Electric Factory exploded for about four hours with one of the most powerful bills of heavy metal music you’ll find in 2011.
The show started about 10 minutes early, something I can’t ever recall happening in my 25 years of concert going. Death Angel simply walked onto the stage with no fancy pyrotechnics, no glamorized introduction, and no props and immediately jumped into a set that kicked your ass and set the stage for a night of loud, ripping, blazing riffs from three legends of thrash metal.
Death Angel opened with a couple of tunes from their newest album, Rentless Retribution. I am a big Death Angel fan but I must admit, I was somewhat disappointed in their last album, especially coming off of two of the most underrated metal albums of the last decade. However, they sped up the tempo on the new tunes and everything sounded faster and heavier live than on record. It gave me a new found appreciation for the new disc.
I was blown away by these guys. I never had a chance to catch them as a teenager, but I have been an avid follower over the last two decades of breakups and reunions. I cannot wait to catch these guys as a headliner and hear more of a mix of classic tunes and music from Art of Dying and Killing Season. Count me in when they hit the area again with a headliner tour.
I will say this. Testament and Anthrax have a lot of balls letting these guys open the show. Most bands would have a hard time following these intense 25 minutes, but the veterans were confident in their sets. I can’t imagine it did anything but pressure the two bands to step up their games, if that was even at all possible.
Death Angel set list courtesy of Setlist.FM
I Chose the Sky
Claws In So Deep
Seemingly Endless Time
Thrown to the Wolves
Testament were next. The band opened up with an all-time classic, The Preacher. Chuck Billy can’t scream like he used to in the early days, but he makes up for it with death metal growls and it works. I have seen Testament about a half dozen times over the last several decades, the last being in 2010 on the American Carnage tour as an opener. It sounds ridiculous but I swear that these guys get better with every performance. They were on their game and tight as ever.
What I loved more than anything here was the set list. A lot of classic bands will spend the majority of their set playing new stuff in hopes of grabbing some new album sales from old fans that may not have heard the new music. Testament on the other hand was the only band here without a new album which in turn gave them opportunity to mix up their set with close to 25 years worth of music. To me, this is the kind of set that every classic band should play but at the same time they also had the luxury of no new album to promote.
From The Legacy, they immediately went into The New Order. Of all three bands, Testament did the least amount of talking. It was almost like a Slayer set where they just mentioned the name of the song and played their music without any stories or crowd participation. Sometimes that can get a little mundane but it worked here. It was just a non-stop barrage of over an hour’s worth of classic thrash from a band with a large library of tunes.
The set featured such other classics as Over the Wall, Souls of Black, Electric Crown, and a couple of songs off of their last few albums. The band closed with Disciples of the Watch. No complaints here about the set. It was a little odd that they excluded Practice What You Preach here and on the Carnage tour since it was probably their biggest commercial song, but they made up for it with plenty of classics. Like Death Angel, count me in when these guys come back around as headliners.
Testament set list courtesy of Setlist.FM
The New Order
The Persecuted Won’t Forget
Over the Wall
Souls of Black
Into the Pit
More Than Meets the Eye
D.N.R. (Do Not Resuscitate)
3 Days in Darkness
Disciples of the Watch
The show closed with one of the Big 4, Anthrax. Anthrax has a new album out, Worship Music which they are touring for. I saw Anthrax live quite a bit as a teenager. I never had any desire to see them live again. However, the return of Joey Belladonna hooked me. On top of that, the new album is just unbelievable, so I was hooked.
Another big draw to me was the Big Four movie. I know there is always debate about unauthorized concert recordings appearing on You Tube and costing bands tickets, but I totally disagree. I went to see the Big Four last year in the movie theaters and had such a great time seeing Anthrax, that I made sure to put them at the top of the list when they hit Philly. I never would have expected Joey to hit the high notes at his age, but after seeing the movie I knew that these guys were well worth the price of a ticket.
Unlike Death Angel or Testament, Anthrax’s set consisted of more songs of the new or newer album. A third of their set consisted of songs from Worship Music. Normally I would stay home when I see that kind of set list (as I did with the last Iron Maiden tour), but this album is so good that I didn’t mind. It isn’t what I’d call thrash, but it is real powerful and a logical evolution from the last album they put out with Belladonna.
The band opened up with two songs from the new album. Joey Belladonna was more of a showman than any of the other singers that night. Joey and Anthrax had more of a show than a performance, which had the crowd eating out of the palm of their hands. Joey or Scott Ian had some kind of dialogue between just about every song and it worked. It is what you expect if you have seen Anthrax before, as they are one of the more fun metal bands to see live.
Caught In A Mosh was the first classic tune played, third song into the Anthrax set. The floor was just sea of chaos and brutality, a true homage to the classic days of thrash metal shows. The same could be said about the mosh pit during Indians, which came a few tunes later. The band closed before the encore with Efilnikufesin (N.F.L.) which is a song I haven’t heard them play in decades. The crowd ate this up and the band sounded remarkably just as good as they did when they recorded it in 1987.
The band returned quickly for encores. They really mixed things up and threw in enough classic songs to justify the tradeoff in playing a bunch of new songs in the early portion of the show. They opened the encore with Among The Living, which was just simply awesome to hear live in 2011.
At one point during the encore, Joey headed over to the drums. I started wondering if Public Enemy was in the house or if they were going into I’m The Man. Instead, I was surprised to hear them break into Refuse/Resist which is a Sepultura cover with Scott on vocals and Joey helping out on the drums. It’s a great song so I had no problem with the extra cover. The band closed with an extended version of I Am The Law before ending the festivities.
Unlike Chuck, Joey was able to hit every high note which is amazing at his age. He sounded just as melodic and crisp as he did the first time I saw him live over 20 years ago. I was also a fan of the John Bush era of Anthrax, but I would be shocked if this latest reunion falls apart anytime soon. The band all seemed to be having a great time with each other on stage including plenty of joking and laughing during the show.
I probably sound like an old man posting these thrash concert reviews but I don’t care. It is a unique experience for sure to go see these bands in 2011 as opposed to when I was 17. Quite frankly, it is one of the more welcoming crowds with a mix of everything from elderly adults to parents sharing an important part of their youth with their children. It still has its Heavy Metal Parking Lot moments, but overall these crowds are a lot of fun.
Anthrax set list courtesy of Setlist.FM
Earth on Hell
Fight ‘Em Till You Can’t
Caught in a Mosh
The Devil You Know
In the End
Got the Time
Among the Living
Metal Thrashing Mad
I Am The Law
Whether you are someone like me who spent hours of their childhood listening to thrash metal or just discovered it in recent years through friends or family (I brought my little brother), do yourself a favor and get out to these shows. The bands need you as much as you could use them to take a little break from reality and enjoy some great music for 2-3 hours. It really doesn’t get much better than the Earth Is On Hell tour.
Check out the iTunes Store Music for all of these and other great metal tunes.